With University of Pittsburgh's commencement exercises coming up Sunday, the spring graduation season officially begins. Beyond a gift of money, here are some ideas that can benefit both your high school and college graduate.
For high school graduates
Terrarium: It's always nice to keep a sprig of green in those prison-like dorm rooms. And while replacing a bouquet of flowers every other week might leave the average college student broke after a month, this little growing green habitat from Anthropologie can last an entire year: $38. www.anthropologie.com/anthro/product/shopgifts-under-fifty/26370486.jsp
Folding metal bookstand: Work hands-free during finals week. This bookstand from Barnes & Noble keeps heavy text books upright during late night study sessions -- $5.99 www.barnesandnoble.com
Bose headphones: Noise-canceling headphones come in handy on those noisy nights in the dorm or on long bus rides home. These Bose headphones offer comfort and sound quality to help drown out all other distractions: $299. www.bose.com.
PBTeen college customized wallet: This embroidered leather collegiate accessory from PBTeen is a cute and useful way to bump up school spirit: $55. www.pbteen.com.
Eric Carle postcards: Help your high school grad tap his or her inner child again while writing home. This assorted plants and animals postcard set by Eric Carle from the Carle Museum in Amherst, Mass., will remind your loved one to keep in touch once in a while -- the old-fashioned way: $15.75. http://www.carlemuseum.org.
For college graduates
"Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics": Post-college life often includes trading in the campus meal plan for home-cooked dinners. For those who never learned kitchen skills, now would be a good time to try out that stove. This simple recipe cookbook by Ina Garten will make cooking stress-free: $35. www.barefootcontessa.com or amazon.com.
Hamilton Beach 49980Z coffee maker: The cost of fancy coffee orders at the neighborhood cafe can add up for someone just getting started, so here's a way to brew coffee more affordably at home. The coffee maker offers two options -- it fills up just a travel mug for the person on the go, or will brew up to a 12-cup carafe for a crowd. It has a programmable timer and automatic shutoff. $99.98 at Macy's, www.macys.com.
Umbra Picture Frame Family Tree: To fill out the home decor, this picture frame for the wall keeps family and friends close. $50 at Macys.com.
Cambridge Satchel Co. Bag: This stylish satchel doubles as a work briefcase and a weekend bag. Tote your grad school books or business papers in premium leather with this option from The Cambridge Satchel Co. $240. www.cambridgesatchel.com.
Cuisinart GR-4N Griddler: For small kitchens, this 5-in-1 counter top unit works as a contact grill, panini press, full grill, full griddle and half grill/half/griddle -- it can handle everything from pancakes to sausages to grilled cheese to steaks, hamburgers and panini. $139.99 at Macys; other department/big box stores and amazon.com.
"The New York Times 36 Hours": 150 Weekends in the USA & Canada: For the working individual on a budget, this book offers great road trip and summer vacation ideas -- all within the country or nearby: $23.99. www.amazon.com or local bookstores